Folklorama festival in Winnipeg, Manitoba
Imagine experiencing the food, culture, and entertainment of 40 countries without leaving the boundaries of one city. Folklorama festival in Winnipeg, Manitoba offers just that.
Every evening during the first two weeks of August, community clubs, schools, and other buildings throughout the city become home to cultural pavilions. Visitors can purchase traditional food and drink, view cultural displays, and watch ethnic entertainment. There are usually 3 show times per evening at each pavilion with performances typically running 30 to 45 minutes. Weekend late night parties at some pavilions provide dancing opportunities.
Folklorama began in 1970 as a celebration for Manitoba’s centennial. There were 21 pavilions. It grew into an annual one-week event and now runs for two weeks with each week featuring different pavilions. 2014 saw 19 pavilions in the first week and 24 in the second. Pavilions are sponsored by community associations and run by volunteers. A total of 20,000 volunteers make Folklorama happen.
I remember attending Folklorama when I was in my twenties and the festival was still a one-week event. The challenge was to try and visit every pavilion. It could be done if one attended every evening, carefully planned visits to minimize travel time, and didn’t need to be terribly productive at work during the days. These days I am not that ambitious, but I do try to visit a few pavilions every year, balancing returns to old favourites with visits to new or new-to-me pavilions. So far this year I’ve made it to the Ireland-Irish Pavilion, the Chilean Pavilion, and the India Pavilion.
Over the years, I’ve seen limbo dancers, fire eaters, Capoeira performances, tango dancing, river dancing, and ethnic folk dancing. I’ve heard Japanese drummers, steel bands, bagpipes, and oompah bands. I’ve eaten jerk chicken, goat curry, empanadas, Irish stew, sarma, souvlaki, paella, perogies, holubtsi, bratwurst, German tortes, and flan.
At the start of the show at the India Pavilion the crowd stood while the Canadian national anthem and the Indian national anthem were played. I attended the final show at the Chilean Pavilion. At the end of that show, we stood and sang the Canadian national anthem while images of Canada scrolled across a screen above the stage. We remained standing as the entertainers and other Chileans in the crowd sang the Chilean national anthem and images of Chile scrolled across the screen. These moments seem fitting symbols for the essence of Folklorama.
Have you attended Folklorama? Do you have a favourite pavilion? Have you attended a similar festival elsewhere?